What we do in the shadows

Hello all!

Sorry that I’ve been away for a bit, but I thought I’d take a little time to organize my thoughts and let you know what I’m planning on doing.

I saw an opportunity to set something up that would help a community that I care about. To that end, I’ve done the following:

  • Set up a domain
  • I was thinking of happy mutant as something we have called ourselves, but I forgot that BoingBoing is owned by Happy Mutant LLC. I’m sorry about that. It’s something we’ll have to address.
  • Set up an Instance of Discourse
  • I pretty much followed the guide here.
  • It’s on pretty minimal hardware.
  • Set up SSL
  • This was actually way easier than I expected, thanks to the Discourse developers.
  • Set up Social logins:
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Yahoo!(?)
  • Please let me know if any of these aren’t working, as I haven’t really tested them, other than Google.
  • Set up an e-mail provider
  • This was probably the most trouble, and has been giving users the most trouble as well.
  • Opened the floodgates
  • Wow, that was fast. We’re at nearly 70 users in a single day.

This site is hosted at Digital Ocean, based on the minimum config from the guide:

  • 1 CPU
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 30 GB SSD
  • 1 TB Transfer

This has a monthly cost of $10

E-mail is delivered via SparkPost. Their free tier had the highest thresholds:

  • 5,000 Messages/day
  • 100,000 Messages/month

This has a monthly cost of $0 (within those limits)

The domain happymutants.space was registered through Dreamhost, simply because that’s where my other domains were registered.

This cost $4 for the first year, but would be $25-$35 in subsequent years.


At this point, I’ve only spent $4 to get this thing started. I’ve got a $10 credit at Digital Ocean, so it would be effectively free this month if we leave things as they are, and then $10 per month going forward.

Although it’s performed admirably up to this point, this is probably not going to cut it for very long.

###Low-hanging Fruit

  • We need a CDN
  • 30 GB is not going to survive the gifs.
  • I’m going to try to get something set up shortly, but I don’t expect it will be a long-term solution.
  • We need Moderators
  • There have been several volunteers. Thank you!
  • Do we want to go with that for now and then maybe have elections?
  • Obviously I need help, but I don’t want this to be Top-down, at all.
  • We need categories
  • I hear you.
  • I’m not clear if this (creating new categories) is just an admin feature, of if this can be done by Staff/Moderators.
  • I know there’s been some discussion. Is someone willing to get a consensus on maybe the top 5?
  • Taxonomy is always controversial.
  • We need (more) admins
  • I can’t run this alone. I’m probably not even the most qualified person to do so. I was just the first.
  • The unofficial IT committee is Me, @tinoesroho, @messana, and @japh.
  • Is everyone okay with this group to start with?
  • Are all three of you even interested in being an Admin?
  • Do we need more?

###Slightly less pressing, but still important

  • We need more power (probably)
  • We can scale up where we are, for additional cost. This may make sense in the short term.
  • Depending upon the scale we need to plan for, it may make sense to move to a new location.
    • What do we want out of a host?
      • In terms of location?
      • In terms of price?
      • In terms of security?
  • We need a new domain.
  • As mentioned above, it was a mistake to select the one we have, for several reasons.
  • There’s been some discussion already, let’s continue and see what we can come up with.
  • It may make sense to change the domain when we change hosts. We could put this site into read-only for a time and then eventually redirect it entirely.

###Longer Term
Let’s build a community.


IIRC, this is an admin only function of Discourse.

I’m in - this should get us going, but I’d love for the community to work out what it would take to add additional members to the IT committee, what our responsibilities and expectations are, and what it would look like to step down at some point. Having the keys to the digital kingdom is an enormous responsibility and an enormous granting of trust. Let’s honor that.

I’m all for transparency, collective ownership, and building something that will handle rotating responsibility via some sort of yet-to-be-agreed-upon mechanism. Responsible parties should be able to rise up and step down via consensus. I wish I had a deeper grounding in political theory to make better suggestions for what those mechanisms might look like.


I’d like to be the first to register a reply, that others can springboard off of.

I would be honored to act as part of an oversight board, though I am uniquely unqualified for any sort of position whatsoever. I do have two things that may prove an asset: gobs of time, and enthusiasm unbound. If the community would have me on its oversight board, I would be glad to accept.

The volunteer moderators will perform their roles quite nicely. If @mindysan33 were here, I would also ask her if she were interested; she is a pillar of the community, one of its brightest and most consistent stars. Moderator elections could be done to replace mod team members or augment their numbers, perhaps we should rely on the volunteers now and hold elections to add more next month.

As far as categories go, we could mimic usenet’s structure. Bless the woolly alt.* hierarchy and all who sail it.

Dedicated hardware would be optimal, but that is pricey - we should revisit the possiblity in six months or so, hosting a fund-raiser if the community is interested. A stellar pick of a VM host would have reasonable abuse policies, have decent price for performance, and would hopefully not be affiliated with GoDaddy in any way.

(1and1 is my favorite registrar - they tend to have reasonable annual prices for domains and usually throw in a free hosted email inbox while they’re at it)

Should we have regulars on the IT committee?

  • Yes, oversight is key
  • No, the nerds can settle it alone

0 voters


@messana ninja’d me

@everyone, what do you think?

“We work in the shadows to preserve the light.”


I know how to create topics and I think I have the power already. I have a Discourse board of my own so am familiar with a lot of the admin features.


I’m traveling tomorrow and will try to set these up while I have some down time at the airport.


I think I misunderstood what this would do. Can someone take another look at these for me?

If I’m understanding correctly, while this is useful, what we really need is space.


I’d also like to nominate @redesigned to be a member of the committee, as interest has been expressed:

Correct. Caching at the edge is awesome, but there still needs to be a canonical source. Now I want to set up some rudimentary monitoring, say “add gifs as you like”, and see what the rate of change looks like. I suppose one could query an existing Discourse instance to get some real world data…

All to say: 30G may last longer than we think or get burned up in a month, but we should certainly plan for it.


I’ve added him to the above post.


awesome, thanks! :+1:


I can help with the technical or moderator stuff. I’m mostly a Windows guy these days but I have a long and storied history with the other platforms. I’ve admined and moderated at very sizeable boards in the past (80k members). I can do coding too. I can’t dedicate a bunch of time these days as I’m quite busy at my day job but I’m happy to help and be on retainer.


I am retired, my last job was small company CIO. My IT skills are no longer current but I offer to help in any way I can. I’m a trustee of a social enterprise or two, but my technical skills in this area relate to English not US law so would be of limited use. In case it becomes necessary I have had dealings in the past with the USPTO on trademarks. However, I have time, let me know. Also, how can I send you some money? Paypal? It isn’t economic to send small amounts to the US by bank transfer.


I know all about the Linux and I can help out with server things no problem, although that department is already starting to look stacked.

Mods are a rarer breed though. I’m a bit skeptical about holding elections, paradoxically I think a good mod might especially be someone who isn’t well known or liked by the community. If you’re banning people while you laugh along with the regulars I think it creates a bad vibe. Falcor was the platonic ideal; it moderated, well, and nothing else. Where does one find such a mythical beast in the real world?

So I don’t know if I can help with that, but if there’s an interest I could maybe look at developing some more creative moderating tools. I made it up on the spot in the arrivals thread but the idea of a time out corner is growing on me. Too many flags or by mod discretion and you can only post in the timeout thread for a while. You’re not cut off without dialog or explanation, but others only have to deal with you if they really want to. You get a chance to show a bit of contrition and humility. And there would be special rules for special children and if you still can’t behave in timeout then maybe you need a longer break.

Or if that’s too complicated maybe just a mute button? But I’ve been struggling to work out what to make of what happened over at the No OtherMichaels Club and I do think the design of the moderation workflow failed in some subtle ways.

  • If MO got an upfront explanation that his joke was deleted deliberately, he might have left it at that. Sometimes people don’t even realize they’ve been moderated.
  • If there had been a dialog instead of just deleting his subsequent posts, he might not have thrown a tantrum.
  • If MO was muted instead of banned, OM might not have freaked out.
  • If everything hadn’t disappeared into the void, the bans might not have looked to latecomers like summary executions.
  • If instead of “banned until 2027” the user card just said “banned”, it might not have looked so petulant.

MO and OM both seem like peope who would do well with a timeout solution. Tell a self-deprecating joke, no hard feelings, maybe promise to consider thinking about reigning it in a bit in future, then release back into genpop. And supposing somebody did continue to shit things up in the timeout thread, maybe the rest of us wouldn’t be so up in arms about their forced parting.

Would something like that be helpful?


i offer a thought about that. what if the mods used an account to make the decisions and take the actions of falcor over at bb? perhaps it would take the consensus action of a quorum of the mods online to take action and then they could use the account to make suggestions and take actions similar to the way falcor did. i also offer a a thought as to the name for the account-- atropos, the fate who cuts the thread terminating the life of the individual. a possible catchphrase “don’t push the hands who hold the scissors.”


The problem with that approach (if I understand it correctly) is that it removes transparency and personal accountability from moderation.

If, say, you had three mods and two of them were having a bad day, the third would get outvoted and tarred with the bad decisions of the other two.

I think it’s a good idea that mods should be held to account individually. The more transparency in their decisions, the better.


just arrived and ended up ITT sorta randomly. dunno where they are discussing that yet but my immediate thought was to rename the domain as the same words translated into another language. one that can easily be typed on a Western keyboard, so any of the romance languages or latin? but Esperanto seems like it would be the happy-mutanty-est.

i, uh, don’t actually speak it, though.

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But google translate does, eg

feliĉaj mutantes

and that’s what most of us are going to reference anyway.

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heh, yeah, I found the thread and posted exactly that over there. not very catchy. sorry for the threadjack, all.

Absolutely. Depending on the bandwidth limits of the host (and the costs of overages), the CDN can help with that as well as speeding up accesses from some locations. But the content still has to come from the initial server source, so storage space is needed for images and so forth.

@LockeCJ, I would recommend very closely watching bandwidth usage over the first few days to get a good lock on what’s typical. It looks like the $10 plan at digital ocean is 2TB, rather than the 1TB you listed? There’s no a lot of theming on these pages so that can help, but the usage could climb surprisingly depending on how people are typically using it.